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Full text of "A story about a real man"

184                                                                                     B- POLEVOI
wrote, and requested her to cease writing about her feel-
ings towards him until she had seen with her own eyes
whom it wTas she loved.
On reading this, Anyuta first felt indignant and then
frightened. She took the photograph from her pocket. A
thin, youthful face with determined features, a fine, straight
nose, a small moustache and a nicely shaped mouth
looked at her. "And now? What are you like now, my
poor darling?" she whispered, gazing at the photograph.
As a medical student, she was aware that burns heal
badly and leave deep, indelible scars. For some reason,
she recalled that in the anatomical museum she had seen a
model of the face of a man who had suffered from lupus:
a face scarred by bluish furrows and pimples, with ir-
regular, corroded lips, eyebrows in small clumps, and red
eyelids without eyelashes. What if he were like that? Her
face paled with horror at the thought; but at once she
mentally scolded herself. Well, suppose he is? He fought
our enemies in a burning tank, defending her freedom,
her right to education, her honour, her life. He was a
hero. He had risked his life so many times and was now
yearning to return to the front to fight and to risk his
life again. But what had she done in the war? She had
dug trenches, performed air defence duty and was work-
ing in a base hospital. But what was this compared with
what he had done? "These doubts alone make me un-
worthy of him!" she railed at herself, making an effort
to drive away the frightful vision of that mutilated face
that rose before her eyes.
She wrote him a letter, the longest and tenderest she
had written throughout their correspondence. Naturally,
Gvozdev never learned about these doubts. On receiving
this splendid letter in answer to the anxious one that he
had written, he read it over and over again. He even
told Struchkov about it, and the latter, after listening
to the story with an indulgent air, said:
"Show your pluck, man. You know the saying: 'A
pretty face and a heart that's cold; a plain one and a
heart of gold.' All the more so today, when men are so
scarce."
Naturally, this candour failed to reassure Gvozdev. As
the day of his discharge from hospital <lrew nearer he